You are here: American University Finance Communications Transformer Fire on September 29

Memorandum October 4, 2018

To: American University Community

From: Doug Kudravetz, CFO, Vice President and Treasurer

Subject: Transformer Fire on September 29  

As you know from the AU Alerts, early last Saturday morning, an underground transformer caught fire behind Hughes Hall. Initially, the origin and extent of the fire were not known. Fire alarms were activated in several buildings. DC Fire and Rescue and the American University Police Department responded quickly and there were no injuries reported. Because of heavy smoke, fire, and loss of power, and acting out of caution, we evacuated students and other AU community members from all AU buildings. By Saturday afternoon, all buildings were inspected and deemed safe to reoccupy.     

On Saturday, we also arranged to have five large generators brought to AU to restore power, shifted food service to the Washington College of Law cafeteria, and worked with students on residence hall accommodations. Further aggravating matters was a DC water main break, which disrupted water service with low or no pressure for a period of time on Sunday. 

We know the underground fire, smoke, and loss of power have caused disruptions to university life. We appreciate residents’ patience. Recovery includes working as quickly as we can to understand what caused the fire, in addition to repairing or replacing electrical equipment so we no longer need the generators.   

We are working with engineers, contractors, and other experts to assess the damage from the transformer fire. It is likely that much of the infrastructure on or near the transformer will have to be replaced. Also due to the damage, we estimate repairs will take weeks to complete, during which time we will have to use the generators that currently are providing power. 

We will communicate updates of our findings, actions, and outlook periodically. For updates about the progress of the repairs, please visit If you have questions about residence life issues, please contact Housing and Residence Life at 202-885-3370 or by email at housing Finally, students whose academic work was disrupted by the events of this past weekend should work with their faculty members to make adjustments as necessary. 

Thank you again for your patience.